The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning
The time had come. The bags were packed. No turning back now. We hugged our pets, thanked our house sitters, threw our luggage in the trunk, and waved to our neighbors as we headed north out of Tulsa. Nervous excitement filled the car as we left our familiar scenery behind. The small towns dotting highway 169 blurred past as we headed toward Kansas City. We had recently resigned from the Pastoral team of a mainline Protestant congregation. He was the pianist and I was the Associate Pastor. But that was behind us now. We weren’t quite sure what to expect. We had no clue about what lay ahead, but we had the feeling we were being called, led somewhere, somehow. So we turned up the tunes and tuned out the uncertainties and sped onward and upward toward our first World Conference.
I met with the Pastoral Team of Tulsa Central Community of Christ just days before our departure. My confirmation was set for the first weekend in July. It was years in the making. I was ready. Yet I needed one more thing…a bigger picture, a wider view perhaps. I was curious. How does this peculiar faith tradition reverberate in the life and witness of diverse populations around the globe? Looking back I realize I needed one more affirmation, one final burning bush. I needed to know that God really was still speaking, still moving, still shaping the world in the Divine Image. I needed to find myself in the vast mosaic that is Community of Christ. We had found our church home at Tulsa Central for sure, but was there really a seat at the table for us in the global Church? There was only one way to find out.
What we experienced at World Conference was beyond what we expected or could have even imagined. We felt God’s Spirit at work in that holy place. We saw God in the outpouring of love and support evidenced by each rainbow button and lanyard. We heard God in each thundering hymn as a chorus of voices in myriad languages echoed the clarion call to praise the Living God, a God that still speaks through prophets, priests and scriptures, a God that empowers each one through the grace of community to work for the building up of Zion in this time and place, not just in some ethereal heaven light years away, here and now! We were caught up, changed in the twinkling of an eye. We went in search of a burning bush and were met there by a God who had set the whole church ablaze with divine mercy, love and truth.
As we headed home on Sunday evening we did so with a song in our hearts. "God's whose Spirit like a fire is burning." I was changed by our holy time in Independence. Something clicked for me in that sacred place. It might have been during the John Whitmer Historical Associate banquet or the Prayer for Peace in our beautiful Temple. Perhaps I received my personal revelation during the Roll Call of the Nations or when I received communion with thousands of my RLDS brothers and sisters from around the globe. I am unsure of the exact moment it all clicked for me, but that doesn’t matter much. What matters is that though I was already remarkably excited to continue my journey of faith with Community of Christ, #WC2016 (World Conference 2016) made me proud beyond measure to call myself a Latter Day Saint. For that, I am thankful.
Tulsa Central Congregation
What a devastatingly difficult time in the life of Community of Christ!
We just lived through a frightening year of budget reductions and staff layoffs. With such sadness barely behind us, how could this be happening AGAIN?!?!
Several days have gone by now, since the news began going out to the church. In a way, it hasn’t gotten any easier. But the Holy Spirit is so very persistent.
Words from Doctrine and Covenants 164: 9a keep asserting themselves in my mind.
9 a. Beloved children of the Restoration, your continuing faith adventure with God has been divinely led, eventful, challenging, and sometimes surprising to you. By the grace of God, you are poised to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for the church.
Challenges abound! That’s sure an understatement!
Poised to fulfill God's ultimate vision for the church?!? What might that be? Is that message to us a mistake?
What’s really wild is that everywhere I go in the church I see opportunity as never before. At no time in my lifetime, have I had so much hope for the church I love.
Self-sustaining leaders of all ages are stepping up with renewed energy and determination to engage in Christ's mission, offering invitation, peace and refuge.
People are experimenting with exciting new ministries, creating entry points for people into the church, to be embraced by the Holy Spirit and to find a loving community. We've got Meetups on Meetup.com, Coffee and Conversation groups at local coffee houses, Community Place creatively using the internet to keep people connected, Congregation Revitalization at world church and in mission centres, the Leading Congregations in Mission Program, innovative ministries, campus ministries, volunteer teams leading mission centres, Developing Disciples to Serve Retreats and other similar leadership classes deepening our discipleship, community gardens, community meals, campgrounds, new congregations springing up and heritage congregations rediscovering pride in a sacred identity worth sharing.
Thousands of people, Latter-day Seekers and others, every year, are checking out the Community of Christ. Many are finding it to be a good place of sanctuary, openness, authenticity and a spiritual home through which to engage in mission.
So much financial stress and strain and so much hope, all at the same time! I so hope we haven’t really reached the limits of our generosity! I’m really hoping that we’ve not yet achieved our true capacity, so that we can ramp up our giving to be able to pursue all these opportunities.
Our heritage of faith is filled with stories of God choosing to work with the one who others might dismiss. (David, the shepherd boy, Mary, the unwed young mother, Saul, the hateful persecutor, Joseph, a poor boy seeking answers.)
We must not give up!
Don't miss out on the opportunity to be part of what God has in store for us.
These are not just words. It is time to faithfully apply all the work we’ve done together over these last years, to discern God's call to us as a church for this day and age.
We must share our basic beliefs, our enduring principles, our mission initiatives and the wonderful spirit of the Restoration with others.
Share about our Children’s Peace Pavilion! Invite friends into the great story of this fabulous ministry that’s not just a museum in Independence, but a program that can be established in a variety of ways in your very own community.
Share about Outreach International! Invite friends to know of this life saving ministry!
Share about Encounter World Religions! Invite friends to thrill in learning and building new relationships across cultures! Did you know that this unique program of Community of Christ has been honored as a gift to the world by the Parliament of the World’s Religions?
Share about the work of our church Peace and Justice Team, or the Human Rights Team! Invite your friends to make a difference!
Share our sacred story with a Latter-day Seeker! Prepare yourself through studying materials on the Latter-day Seeker website. Become a living sanctuary of God’s grace with those searching. Mentor someone in person or on-line.
Share our beautiful new hymnal! Consider having extra copies to give to interested friends. This is a wonderful witness for sharing our message of God’s love for all with the world.
Share the sacred story of our church, the adventure, the way it has made a difference in your life and in the lives of others around the world! Read Community of Christ, an Illustrated History, and then share it with a friend. Then share another copy with someone else.
Share an invitation to a camp or a reunion!
Share an invitation to a silent retreat or to another opportunity to grow spiritually!
Share an invitation to build relationships through conversation that matters!
Share an invitation with a brother or sister, someone from Community of Christ, who has been neglected or ignored, or who we've struggled with, to sit down for a chat. Listen to them.
Pray the Mission Prayer every day, or multiple times every day. Share and invite as you feel led.
Prepare to be astonished at what is going to happen as we respond. Can you almost catch a glimpse of it (God's ultimate vision for the church)?
Friends, God's not done with us yet! This wonderful Community of Christ is about to burst with all the potential inside. Let's let it out!
I am deeply honoured to be one of your apostles in this exciting time!
In Christ's peace,
Council of Twelve
We all have a story to share. Mosaic is a collection of our stories.